Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Peter Brookes in the Times

This is a great cartoon from Peter Brookes.

I watched The Seventh Seal recently and really liked it. It explores complex themes with a commendable lightness of touch and some truly arresting symbolism like that above.

News from Iraq has been so dismal the central thesis of the cartoon that, in meeting President Bush, Gordon Brown risks the electoral poison of association with that conflict seems very plausible. Richard Posner's decision theory case for leaving (via Stumbling and Mumbling) seems quite strong if there really is a negligible "expectation of a victory" and that has been my understanding of the situation.

However, it now seems possible that things will might turn out better than expected, if still nowhere near what was hoped for in the heady days immediately following Saddam's fall. Bush and Iraq might, therefore, not be quite the liability that the cartoon suggests they will be for Brown. This editorial from the New York Times suggests some genuine good news coming out of the country:

"Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily "victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated -- many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."

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